Interest hasn’t come for the play-caller during this cycle.
Eric Bieniemy took a big leap of faith last year by leaving the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs for the Washington Commanders. The chance to run an NFL offense and acquire responsibilities in keeping with head coaches around the league sold him on taking the plunge. Something many believed would be the final stepping stone toward a long-awaited promotion to one of the top jobs.
Judging by the lack of interest despite plenty of vacancies league-wide, Bieniemy’s year in Washington wasn’t perceived in the best light. And now, his head coaching chances might be gone for good.
Bieniemy reportedly rubbed some players the wrong way with his high demands and tough-nosed approach. There was a clear unwillingness to alter his methods - ones that had been so successful throughout his coaching career. More importantly, the Commanders’ offense lacked balance and stuttered - especially over the second half of 2023.
Eric Bieniemy’s head coaching window is rapidly closing
Just one interview came to Bieniemy’s door. This was a courtesy meeting from the Commanders. Nothing has materialized following as the team hones in on other targets, with Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson in strong contention to replace Ron Rivera.
What the future holds for the experienced figure remains to be seen. It’s unlikely he’ll be retained if an offensive-minded coach gets the position. The need for a fresh start is glaring, but Bieniemy could get another gig somewhere else as a coordinator or maybe even back to a position coach looking at how things stand around the NFL.
This is bitterly disappointing for Bieniemy and those who’ve fiercely defended him over recent years. Many felt he was harshly overlooked for opportunities when his stock was highest. The Chiefs were a juggernaut from the moment he arrived to work alongside Andy Reid. In hindsight, the presence of such a charismatic head coach overseeing the offensive schematics went against him.
If Bieniemy hadn’t put too much pressure on first-year starting quarterback Sam Howell. If he’d shown some adaptation rather than being stuck in his ways. If things had gone better with the Commanders, the interview requests would have followed in abundance. Instead, it’s a long road back to consideration.
Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Commanders will meet with Macdonald on Monday night.
Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports that Washington will also meet with Weaver on Monday.
The Commanders were already scheduled to travel to Detroit on Tuesday to interview Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. Also, on Tuesday, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will have his second interview with Washington.
The Commanders will also interview Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn again, presumably in Detroit, when they meet with Johnson.
Washington has already interviewed Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik twice.
With the Lions and Ravens losing on Sunday, Washington can hire Johnson, Glenn, Macdonald, or Weaver if either of the four is the pick. If Detroit or Baltimore would have won, the Commanders would have had to wait until after the Super Bowl.
Washington’s coaching search should be completed sometime this week.
Peters has apparently been doing his homework and thus has managed to maintain his backup plan as well. He has already interviewed Dan Quinn once and is still planning on a follow-up interview this week.
Commanders fans have nearly in unison been very strongly opposed to the idea of Quinn becoming the next head coach of the burgundy and gold.
However, placing yourself in Peters’ shoes, what if the interviews with Johnson and Macdonald result in Peters, in his own mind, determining he would rather have someone with some NFL head coaching experience?
Well, Quinn has been the DC for the Cowboys and Seahawks. He was also a head coach in Atlanta and led the Falcons to an NFC Championship and a 28-3 lead against the Patriots in a Super Bowl. Peters also might consider he would rather have Quinn than see Quinn as the next Dallas HC when the contract with Mike McCarthy expires.
The Washington Commanders offense struggled at times this season, but how did the tight end room fare this year?
Veteran Logan Thomas had a bounce-back year as he played in the most games since 2020 as he started 15 out of 16.
With Thomas being on the field, Howell looked his way, and often. Thomas would finish his eighth season with the most receiving yards since 2020 as he totaled 459 yards, which was the fourth-highest on offense, and hauled in four touchdowns (tied for most on offense). Thomas would also have 55 receptions (third-highest on team).
John Bates, who was in his third year caught 19 passes for 151 yards, both were more than his 2022 totals. That looks even better when you factor in that Bates played 10 fewer offensive snaps in 2023.
In his rookie season, Turner caught just two passes for 23 yards. But this season, Turner had 11 receptions for 120 yards and did it having played 103 fewer offensive snaps. So he, along with Bates, did more with less.
Pro Football Focus
- 2022 PFF grade: 62.9
- 2023 PFF grade: 67.6
Not many players on the 2023 Washington Commanders team played significantly better than in 2022, although the former Kentucky linebacker showed promising signs during this third NFL season in the NFL before suffering a season-ending injury. Whereas he was a liability in the running game during his rookie campaign, Davis ranked 19th among linebackers in run-defense grade (76.1) in 2023.
Podcasts & videos
️It's go time for the Commanders. Intel on the head coach search, meeting schedule, Ben Johnson's chances, and why the Seahawks' search process adds a curious variable. Also, the championship round games; QB prospects/Senior Bowl week with @TheDentonDay. https://t.co/qwPBA5KdK4— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) January 29, 2024
Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders Head Coach Candidates Ben Johnson and Mike Macdonald Available for Hire
NFC East links
Blogging the Boys
A name has emerged as a possible Cowboys DC if Dan Quinn leaves.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Sunday... Dallas has interest in Rivera in that particular hypothetical.
“What if Dan Quinn leaves the Dallas Cowboys? Here’s an interesting one. Ron Rivera has already interviewed for the Eagles defensive coordinator job. I’m told that the Cowboys have some interest in potentially looking into Rivera as their defensive coordinator if Dan Quinn leaves. You could actually have the former Commanders coach become the Cowboys defensive coordinator.”
Washington’s defense was fairly okay two years ago, but for the most part it has been a bit of a tough scene under Rivera which is not a great look for him given that defense is his specialty.
To be fair to Rivera, the Commanders sort of punted the 2023 season at the trade deadline as they dealt away Montez Sweat and Chase Young. But still the Washington group has been one that Dak Prescott and Mike McCarthy have exposed a lot over the last four years, it is hard to imagine how Cowboys could have seen it up close and personal so often and wanted it as a part of their organization.
Perhaps the Cowboys want Rivera’s leadership qualities in charge of their defense, one of the few things he seems to be exemplary at. Rivera built a strong culture with the Carolina Panthers and did what he could (it was a daunting job) to navigate the Washington franchise through a number of situations.
Blogging the Boys
Time is a flat circle for the Dallas Cowboys.
For years, even decades now, being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys has felt like watching a weird Star Trek episode, one where events just keep repeating over and over while the crew searches desperately for some way to change them. We feel trapped right along with the team. Every year we build up our hopes, only to have them dashed again.
I used the term “purgatory” in the title, because Dallas has never completely fallen apart. They may have a one year stumble where they put up a really bad record, but they at least bounce back to mediocrity the next season, and usually rebound more than that. Most years they are in the playoff hunt, and in six of the last ten seasons they have made the postseason, only to flame out. Lately, those have become spectacular crash-and-burns. But they keep winning the division or getting a wild card bid. The Cowboys are never irrelevant, just predictably soft when things get tough.
They also benefit most years from having weak division opponents. A large portion of their wins each year come from beating up on the weaker rivals. For several years now, both the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders, in all the latter’s incarnations, have been easy wins that pad the record.
There are reasons for this. Jerry Jones seems to have a knack for hiring head coaches who are good, but not good enough. The last bad head coach the team had was Dave Campo, who led them to three consecutive 5-11 seasons before getting the hook. It should be acknowledged that he had rather poor talent to work with as well.
All of this builds a picture of a lack of urgency for the franchise. The Jones family have built the Cowboys into the premiere brand of the NFL and a money-making juggernaut. This isolates them from the pressures most other owners face, where lack of success has a more direct impact on their pocketbooks. Even as frustration builds for the fans, the Jones family basks in luxury and the limelight. The latter seems especially important for Jerry, who has never met a microphone he didn’t want to speak into. Dallas is the most covered team in the NFL. While that coverage is very negative, especially on the more controversy driven outlets, the attitude at The Star seems to be that all publicity is good publicity. It is hard to argue with that take when the value of the franchise just keeps soaring.
Dallas could well wind up going into the 2024 season with no significant changes in how they do business. That is not the most likely way for them to change their fate. They remain mired in their own purgatory, and we are just along for the ride.
Big Blue View
Will Van Pran be the first center drafted?
Sedrick Van Pran projects as a starting center in the NFL and should be able to take a starting job immediately as a rookie. He has a great combination size and athleticism and should be able to execute any blocking scheme commonly used in the NFL. He’s also a smart player who should be able to call protections and identify pressure packages at the next level.
Van Pran is by no means “weak”, but his future team will want to work with him to develop his play strength over time. He’s great at using his core strength and positioning to create openings or seal off defenders. However, being able to truly move NFL linemen off the line of scrimmage will only improve his game.
Final Word: A high second round pick or fringe first rounder.
NFL league links
Washington Post (paywall)
On a miserable afternoon when their Super Bowl dreams forever seemed to fall just past their fingertips, the Baltimore Ravens faced one possession — one stop of the Kansas City Chiefs — to get the ball back to Lamar Jackson, to have a chance in a game in which they had squandered too many. The 71,439 at M&T Bank Stadium had toyed with the notion that this team — with a historically good defense and the almost certain MVP at quarterback — might be one of destiny.
The response in that moment? The Ravens sent too many men on the field. It was the seventh of their eight penalties. There are now eight dreary, downtrodden months to debate which was the dumbest, at which point an AFC championship game that could have been theirs was handed to the Chiefs.
What a way to head into the offseason. The Ravens spent the past two months providing evidence — encyclopedic volumes of evidence — that they were in the conversation with the San Francisco 49ers as the NFL’s best team. When they thumped the 49ers by two touchdowns on Christmas, their argument seemed sturdy.
And then Sunday, they melted down. There’s just no escaping it. In a 17-10 loss to the Chiefs — who will head to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in Patrick Mahomes’s six seasons as their starting quarterback — the Ravens came unraveled.
Detroit lost a heartbreaking NFC title game at San Francisco on Sunday.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell had a brutal yet honest comment about the future of the team, as he shared his conversation with players to reporters after the game:
“Look, I told those guys, ‘This may have been our only shot,’” Campbell said. “Do I think that? No...However, I know how hard it is to get here. I’m well aware. It’s going to be twice as hard to get to this point next year than it was this year.”
"I told those guys - this may have been our only shot... it's gonna be twice as hard to get back to this point next year." - Dan Campbell pic.twitter.com/MSjT1CmH02— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) January 29, 2024
Today, the Kansas City WR went on an IG Live rant and accused the team of lying
For the third time in these playoffs, Kadarius Toney has been ruled inactive.
Since the offensive-offsides penalty heard ‘round the world, he has been active for only one game for the Chiefs since their Week 14 loss to the Buffalo Bills. The following week, he dropped a ball that led to a pick six. Toney has been listed on the injury report with a hip-ankle injury. A “personal reason” was attached for the AFC Championship Game — his newborn daughter was delivered on Saturday night according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. Today, Toney took to Instagram Live to tell anyone who is willing to listen that he is healthy.
[NOTE: THIS IS A PROFANITY-FILLED RAMPAGE THAT MAY OFFEND AND IS DEFINITELY NSFW]
If it was not already obvious, the Chiefs wasted a third round pick when they traded for him last season. The New York Giants selected Toney with a late first-round pick in the 2021 draft. He is a tremendously talented player, but the Giants bailed on him after less than two seasons because they could not trust him to be a professional.